You are on page 1of 2

each scene And after each presentation the youngsters sat around and discussed what they had

been
trying to communicate, how it might be improved

Thelen contrasts this example with one drawn from a high school social studies class in which the
students were to put on a series of television programs

on the history of the community, As preparation, the students looked up information and visited
historical sites, taking pictures of important evidence.

Harry and Joe took pictures of an Indian mound, left there by original settlers. They took it from the
south because the light was better that way; and they never discovered the northern slope where
erosion had laid bare a burrow full of Indian relics. Mary and Sue spent two afternoons on a graph of
corn production in the region; the graph was in a geography book the teacher gave them and the time
was mostly spent in making a neat elaborately lettered document for the camera. The narrators were
chosen for their handsome appearance, and much of the staging of the show (which used reports
mostly) centered around deciding the most decorative way to seat the students. A lot of old

firearms and household implements were borrowed from a local museum and displayed, a sentence or
two of comment for each.‘0

In this latter instance, Thelen acknowledges that the students have learned something about the region,
but he points out that most of the energy, the measure of success, was the effectiveness of the television
as a blend of entertainment and of information giving. The roles in‘Which the students inquired “were
those of a reporter with a keen eye for human interest angles, rather than the socioiogist‘s or historian’s
with a disciplined concern for the course of human events.”“

These two examples illustrate the distinction between activity and inquiry. The actions of the second-
grade class investigating prairie dogs contained the elements of inquiry: puzzlement, self-awareness,
methodology, and reflection. In looking at the two examples given, we may ask ourselves: Were there
questions? Who formulated them? Who sought their answers? How was this information obtained? Was
the information applied? Were the conclusions drawn, and who drew them? Activities are potential
channels for inquiry, but inquiry must emanate from the motivations and curiosity of the students.
Activities cease to be inquiry when the teacher is the sole source of the problem identification and the
formulation of plans, or when the end-product of inquiry takes precedence over the inquiry process.
That is what happened to the hi h school group-~they attained production, but lost the process on the
way. 2

Baru...........

Let’s examine a few examples that Thelen gives us to illustrate the flavor of . inquiry and to point out the
difference between inquiry and activity. The first example is drawn from a second-grade social studies
class dealing with the question, How do different people live? The teacher proposed that the students
select some group, find out how they live, and put this information in a play they would write
themselves. The students after some discussion selected prairie dogs as a focus for their study. Here is an
account of their inquiry.

They started their study by naming the characters for the play they would write, and of course the
characters turned out to be baby, chicken, mother, father, farmer's boy, snake, etc. They made lists of
questions to be answered: What do prairie dogs eat? Where do they live? Wh at do they do with their
time? How big are their families? Who are their enemies? etc. individuals sought answers to questions
from science pamphlets, books, the science teacher, officials of the local zoo, and l have no doubt at
least a few of them talked

to their parents to be taken to see the Disney opus. They reported their findings in compositions during
the writing lessons. The plot of the play gradually took shape and was endlessly modified with each new
bit of information. The play centered around family life. and there was much discussion and spontaneous
demonstrations of how various members of the family would act. Most of these characterizations
actually represented a cross-section of the home lives of seven-year-old children, as perceived by the
children. But each action was gravely discussed and soberly considered, and justified in terms of what
they knew about the ecology of prairie dogs.

They built a stage with sliding curtains and four painted backdrops-more reference work here to get the
field and farm right. The play itself was given six times, with six different casts, and each child played at
least two different parts. There was never any written script; only an 2 greement on the line of action
and the part of it to occur in